Yes Men

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Yes Men
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This is a list of questions that the Yes Men have been asked at least once by reporters writing articles, or by people watching lectures, or by friends scratching heads. These are real questions not pulled out of an ass! If you have an unanswered question, please email it to questions@theyesmen.org so that we can bop it over the head like a soon-to-be-delicious sturgeon. How does a person turn into a Yes Man? A person becomes a Yes Man by exposing, perhaps deviously, the nastiness of powerful evildoers. If this describes what you do (the exposing, not the evildoing), and you want your story here on this website, please fill out a Report of Identity Correction. What benefits does mischief have over more traditional protest? None! For chrissakes. This is like asking if the bangles in the cake's icing are better than the mustard. (Who asked this question anyhow?) Even if we were the bangles (we are not), we would look like crap without the icing. If we were the mustard (we are not), we would taste like crap minus the lollipop. And so on. Traditional forms of protest are more important than ever today: street protest, direct action, rallies, lawsuits, letter-writingÖ All this and more is necessary to make change happen. Plus, what we do is traditional (see below). Why haven't you been fed to the bears, or at least arrested? Isn't what you do illegal? Perhaps it is! And we don't know! Bears would be too good for us, but our targets don't want the risk. At least that's our theory. Anytime anyone has done something about usósaying they "deplore" us, complaining that we're a Political Action Committee, whateveróthey've looked ridiculous to the press. On the other hand, what we do might not be illegal. Lawyers don't seem to know; the ones we've asked can't point to such-and-such a law that means we're in trouble. But then the law is pretty irrelevant, as far as corporations are concernedóif they want you silenced, they just throw a totally bogus lawsuit at you, that invariably gets thrown out, and in the meantime ties you up in red tape. That's called a SLAPP suit, and it's the main way corporations silence community activists whose causes aren't sexy enough for the media to be interested. Like the WTO, it appears that you go jetsetting all over the place. Where do you get your funding? Think of it as weird vacationingóeek-o-tourism, maybe. The stress is quadrupled, the scenery is for shit, but it gives us a nice emotion just like vacationing ought. If we can afford to take a vacation once a year or so, we can afford to take a weird vacation too. Of course, it just so happens that we can't afford to take a vacation, so we've had to rely on the generosity of friends and acquaintances in various places (Salzburg, Tampere, Sydney). Also, after doing this for a while on what we could scrape together and get donated to us, we've found ways to supplement our income giving lectures, selling total crap, and getting art grants from foundations with funny people in charge. What's your opinion of the mainstream media's response to your actions? Very nice. We do what we do because we think it is funny. We can laugh for hours about these things, we are really stupid that way. Mainstream journalists sometimes think we're funny too. But almost always they get the serious point too, and transmit it to the journalism-consuming consumer. A lot of these people (journalists) really want to write about important thingsóbut many of them need an excuse that's fairly innocuous (i.e. won't piss off the big-name corporate interest in town, whether that's Mr. Potter or ExxonMobil). What themes have been extolled by the Yes Men at presentations and how were they recieved? Eat, destroy, swallow, devour, glutch, gobble, quaff, marf, munch, lunch, inhale. Hurrah, cheer, kudos, honor, exalt, extol, salute. In more detail? When we went to the International Legal Studies Conference in Salzburg, we delivered a speech that we thought would make people think twice about WTO policies. We suggested that the siesta in Spain be made illegal because it gets in the way of work. We suggested that a "free market" be established in the realm of democratic government by allowing the buying and selling of votes... we even showed them a website that could make the process very efficient. All of these ideas simply follow the free market philosophy at the core of the WTO to its logical extreme, which is of course quite illogical when you look at the facts. And the facts are that in the last 25 years the poor of the world have gotten even poorer... while the rich have gotten astronomically richer. And all that during the implementation of policies that the WTO claim will help the poor. Of course, these kinds of twisted ideas of what is right for the weak or the poor are not newóthere was a bizarre logic that supported colonialism too. Unfortunately, our current religion of free-trade is so strong that despite our best efforts to satirize the logic, the various audiences we spoke to simply agreed with every sinister, corrupt, and disgusting idea that the "WTO" could muster. So we learned exactly how frightening this reality is. Your accounts suggest the audiences make virtually no response at the time of the presentationsóno questions, booing, heckling; only polite applause. Mightn't this be better interpreted as a sign of incomprehension than of acquiescence? Was anyone listening? In Finland, they certainly were listening. After the lecture, we wandered around the enclave and spoke with people in various environmentsóat lunch, at dinner, in the lobby, etc. Always people understood what the lecture had been about. Always people said it was not offensive. Under other circumstances they would have found it offensive, but because it was the WTO saying these things, they were pretty much ready to goosestep. What do you think these responses indicate about the mindset of the corporate man? Ready to goosestep. Fully in sync with the bottom line of the commanding operation. And not just the corporate man: the corporate woman, the academic man, the political woman, the alcoholic child. Many, many people, regardless of education, are easy prey for the ideas of the corporate decision-makers. Present them with a decision, they will accept it! This is why it is important for citizens to decide what sorts of corporate decisions are and are not acceptable. It is never possible to count on the highly educated to filter the okay from the rotten. It is not possible to expect that Ph.D.s will always be on the lookout for the fascist and murderous. On CNBC, you got very vicious. Instead of satirical schemes, you talk mostly about how might makes right and all that. Why? Well, you might think of us as surgeons in a funhouse. A clever surgeon, having failed to affect the heart by poking at the appendix, spleen, lungs and colon, will then try poking straight at the heart. Because of the faith of our Salzburg audience in the one true neoliberal theory, every derivation of that theoryófrom the extreme to the morbidly extremeóhad failed to get much reaction. With just three TV minutes rather than twenty, why not try poking right at the heart? Why not speak about neoliberal theory itself, the object of faith, rather than its various implications? Defoe, like us, had suggested an action item deriving from faith: not the selling of votes to large corporations, but the execution of all the non-Anglicans. What if, instead, Defoe had described the basis of the Anglicans' theory? What if, instead of urging "the gallows instead of the fine" for Protestants, whose perfidy was entirely well established, Defoe had instead examined how it was that this perfidy was so well established? The Protestants, those nether insects, are of course entirely correct when they claim there is no evidence they are different from us. Of course there is not! But let us look at 'evidence' in a relative way. There is, on the one hand, the evidence of fact, eyes, and scienceówith which the Protestants, that generally ragtag bunch, are so obsessedóand there is the evidence of the great assumptions of Anglicanism, which weówith the highest Anglican educations, and the greatest Anglican knowledgeóknow with the certainest certainty to be certain. This is how we can be sure that a Protestant, although scientifically the same as an Anglican, is as different from him as the miniature hound of Megiddo [17th-century English for cockroach] is distinct from the sun! And furthermoreóif the evidence of books cannot sway youóis it not true that in the entire history of Egypt and subsequent civilizations up to our own, there was not a single Protestant ruler? Might this kind of speech have spurred second thoughts among at least some of the radical Anglicans, when even the most horrible applications of the theory could not? This was our theory, and why we decided to be frank and straightforward on satellite television. How far do you think you can go before someone began questioning? What do you generally think it would take to startle or even shock these people? Perhaps a rumpled suit would help. Milgram's study suggests that. Your speakers presumably circulate among the delegates after their presentations. What sort of reception do they get? Very friendly! Apple wine and pretzels! Hearty handshakes! Sometimes, great earnestness and desire to continue relations into the future between our camp and yours. Do you have a card? Here is mine. Let us read one another's position papers! I like you! Can you describe how these events function or how they are run? Quite nicely. Each is accompanied by a (free) tasty lunch and always some wine. They are in the rich part of town, so you can walk around in a suit without raising eyebrows. Why are you called the Yes Men? You know how a funhouse mirror exaggerates your most hideous features? We do that kind of exaggeration operation, but with ideas. We agree with peopleóturning up the volume on their ideas as we talk, until they can see their ideas distorted in our funhouse mirror. Or that's what we try to do, anyhowóbut as it turns out, the image always seems to look normal to them. What are your ideas and ideals? We are your standard-issue revolutionaries. For example, we would hope that our impostures so shame Messrs. Cheney and Bush that they crumble into regime dust along with their motley assortment of clever-ass thugs. How does this work in reality? We are not sure. So far the above has not happened, but it will. Can you describe a dream scenario for the Yes Menósomething too good to be true, but one you'd jump at if you at the chance, and what you'd do? You know the last scene in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator? Mistaken for Hitler at the border of Austria, the Jewish barber makes a speech to the soldiers waiting to start the Anschluss: Greed has poisoned men's souls; has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.... Even now my voice is reaching millions... victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.... Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you.... Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery, fight for liberty. The soldiers cheer wildly and call off the Anschluss. Perhaps a faux Bush could announce this today? I'm sure our troops would cheer.... Will the Yes Men keep at it even if the Democrats take back the White House? Especially if! All bets are off on what's possible if the current monsters win in November.... What are your principal methods? Principally the broad back-and-forth, or, for difficult stains, rapid-fire circular motions. After all, a clean suit is an absolute prerequisite for successful imposture. The suit can be gotten in your average thrift store for around 20 USD (16 euros, 2000 yen). Who and what inspired the Yes Men? Both the methods and the goals of the Yes Men are as hoarily ancient as, say, lemonade. Criticizing those in power with a smile and a middle finger happens in literature from Aristophanes to Shakespeare, in mythologies from the Volga to the Mississippi, in movements from the Diggers to the Situationists... and of course in lemonade. Who and what inspires your targetsósay, the lawyers in Salzburg? Surely it's not greed that makes them agree with such lunacy. Right: it's mostly faith. The power of faith to transcend the most obvious logic is a well-established phenomenon. When the Crusaders discovered themselves in pitched battle against Christians they had travelled thousands of miles to save, they refused to amend their theory that these Christians needed their help. Faith! Faith, likewise, spurred thirty-nine web developers to don Nikes and swallow poison, on the theoryónot backed by much solid evidenceóthat they'd shortly meet up on the Hale-Bopp Comet. (The "Heaven's Gate" suicide was remarkable among mass suicides for its interface with observational astronomy.) And when Appalachian snake handlers insist on dancing with poisonous critters, despite not-so-rare deaths and lost limbs, it is from faith in the theory that God is protecting them. (The basis for this often-contradicted theory is two Biblical verses: "They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them"óMark 16:18óand "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions"óLuke 10:19.) Similarly, our audience of lawyers in Salzburg had a theoryóthat the free market could bring happiness to the world at largeóand they had the deepest possible faith in it. We had imagined that if we pushed our proposals into the outer limits of ugliness, we could horrify our audience into objecting. But the nature of their faith was such that so long as our proposals derived from the one true theory, there was no way they would ever see anything wrong with them. We weren't the first sloppy satirists to make the mistake. In 1703, a troublemaker named Daniel Defoe, seeking to show the absurdity of a bill forbidding non-Anglicans to hold public office, had suggested in a widely-published pamphlet that barring the scoundrels from office was a big waste of time, and that it would be much more efficient to simply execute them: It is cruelty to kill a snake or a toad in cold blood, but the poison of their nature makes it a charity to our neighbours, to destroy those creatures! not for any personal injury received, but for prevention; not for the evil they have done, but the evil they may do!.... How many millions of future souls, [shall] we save from infection and delusion, if the present race of Poisoned Spirits were purged from the face of the land!... The light foolish handling of them by mulcts, fines, etc.; 'tis their glory and their advantage! If the Gallows instead of the Counter, and the galleys instead of the fine were the reward of going to [non-Anglican churches], there would not be so many... As Scipio said of Carthage, Delenda est Carthago! ... Let Us Crucify The Thieves! [Note: Defoe was no scholar: it was Cato who pronounced Troy deletableóScipio merely did the deleting.] Defoe, to his shock, found his histrionic, inaccurate, and profoundly ridiculous words taken seriously. A large number of radical Anglicans, thinking one of them had authored the screed, came out loudly in favor of execution; this solution, after all, was quite clearly consistent with the widely accepted theory that only Anglicans had any virtue, and that all others were "Poisoned Spirits" in the body politic. We too discovered that once a premise is laidówhether it be the toxicity of dissenters or the friendliness of free marketsóthere is no way to push the implications enough to shake off believers. Why should international trade lawyers, presented with logical conclusions of a theory they deeply believe and practice each day, be any different from snake handlers, Crusaders, or radical Anglicans? Since we hadn't read Defoe, we were condemned to repeat him. At least we found ourselves just somewhat poorer, rather than, like Defoe, rotting in jail awaiting the pillory.... What is the difference between www.WTO.org and www.GATT.org? One of them belongs to impostors who pretend to know something about world trade and how it can benefit humanity, and the other belongs to us. Is claiming to be a WTO official a passport into any obscure corporate trade meeting? Can anyone do it? Sure! But the WTO's identity is not necessarily the best one to adoptóit's also just as interesting to pass as any old nonexistent worker or manager, or even a right-wing ideologue. To do so you can just dress up real splendid-like and make up a historyóno one ever asks for proof of identity at most things, and when you're in the food and drinks are free. It's like this urban exploration thing, where you climb into tunnels and go through buildings and so on, where you're not supposed to, so that you get a sense of what's behind thingsóyou get a sense of how strange things are, a sense that most of those who are actually within the environment, no matter how smart they are, rarely get, because they're used to it. How do you keep from cracking up when you are being the WTO? It's not very funny to stand in front of audiences of suits spouting the most hideous ideas imaginable! It might be funny for someone else to watch, but for us it's kind of scary. Then how do you keep from being too scared to function? Well, if reading a prepared speech, it helps to just read the damn speech. If conversing with people over cocktails, the cocktails help. Then it's like suddenly having license to be as stupid and crazy as you ever wanted to be at a party. Has the WTO ever responded to you? They wrote a press release about us when we first set up GATT.org. Neither we nor anyone else noticed, so they wrote to us directly and told us about it. They said "Hey, look what you made us do, you deplorable dimwits!" So we told 20,000 of our closest friends. That got the WTO a bit of ridicule in the press, which they augmented by telling at least two reporters (from Transfert, and from the New York Times) that they "deplore" us. "Deplore"! Well, we deplore them! Those dumb-asses! Also, in Transfert, they suggested we should wear masks of Mike Moore's face and run around yelling angry epithets about him. That would be funny, they said. Can you imagine? Of course, over time they really warmed up to us, and after the lecture in Sydney, where we shut down them down, they were much, much nicer. Getting shut down was just what they needed. I've seen no evidence of the other 22,098 Yes Men. Where are they and what do they do? They are not as shameless and moronic as we (Andy and Mike) are. They prefer to do their work in a more intelligently haphazard way, without striving so dreadfully to build a big political point around it. We're very doctrinaire. The other 22,098 call us the Pol Pot and Stalin of Yes. But we are hoping more of them will want to add their stories to this website despite our rank despotism. What makes you sure there are so many other Yes Men? Well, after spending two days recently with 650 supposedly right-wing supposed zealots, at the "Heritage Foundation's" annual "Resource Bank," we determined that most of these people had to be fake. I mean come onóPentecostalism is the free-market religion? What would you like most to say to the WTO? Nothing! They wouldn't listen anyhow. We'd like to say to everyone else: look what's going on here. Look what the WTO is doing. Or rather, look what big corporations are doing via the WTO and the WTO member governments. Why do you think they wouldn't listen? Have you tried, or do you just prefer discrediting the WTO rather than speaking to them directly? Yes and yes. We have tried to speak to them directly, like when we asked them to let us into the Canc?n Ministerial. They like totally brushed us off. I guess it shouldn't be a surpriseóeven some WTO member countries (the poor ones) have limited or no access to the decision-making process. We aren't even a poor country. Do you ever think people are catching on? All the time, but that's paranoia. You really have to whack them over the head. Nominating Ed Meese for President isn't enough, nor is inflating a 3-foot golden penis. The trick is to avoid talking to students or other people of active curiosity. Now that you're gaining some fame, what with the movie and all, will you have to revise your approach? The movie will make it harder for the two of us on the poster to show our regular faces in certain places. But we have plenty of irregular faces that we've saved up over the years. And there are countless Yes Men about whom a movie has not lately been made, so it's not really a problem anyhow. How did those of you who are in the movie meet? Andy and Mike met a number of years ago under harrowing circumstances too lengthy and, well, harrowing to describe on the internet. The full story, with color pictures for those of firm constitution, is featured in our forthcoming book. As for the others, they were part of a longterm project to make the two of us more intelligent. What inspired the design for the golden phallus (most obvious answer please to not be included)? OK, most obvious answer will not be included. Second most obvious answer: the male anatomy. In Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed one of the forms of Theatre of the Oppressed is Invisible Theatre, its main aim being to make invisible oppression visible. Would you regard what you do to be Invisible Theatre? Yes! Some people believe that Invisible Theatre is just trickery, others would see what you do as trickery too. Are you guys liars, or what? We need to be devious in order to achieve a condition of honesty. This is very different from "guerrilla marketing," where companies are devious in order to achieve a condition of real criminality, sometimes. But we certainly won't stoop to actual lying, despite what you might think. Did you know that 84% of all lies are told in Louisiana? Do you think what you are doing is making a difference? We guesstimate that it is, somehow, somewhere. And we're having a lot of fun with it anyhow, so even if not, so it's not like we're bigger fools than we obviously are. And either way, it's better than sitting on our asses waiting for the world to change on its own. http://www.theyesmen.org/ http://www.eviltwinbooking.com/